French reason-comment (how) questions: a view from prosody

TitreFrench reason-comment (how) questions: a view from prosody
Publication TypeChapitre d'ouvrage
Année de publication2021
AuthorsBrunetti, Lisa, Hiyon Yoo, Lucia M. Tovena, and Rachel Albar
Book TitleFunctional categories and expressive meaning
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN Number9780198871217

This paper discusses some semantic/pragmatic aspects of French questions starting with comment ’how’ and having an interpretation of reason (similar to reason ’why’), and investigates if and how these properties are reflected by prosody. With reason-comment questions, the speaker doubts about the possibility of the event described by the question to take or have taken place and asks the hearer to help her revise her expectations about it, by giving her some reasons for its existence. The speaker’s doubt is often accompanied by additional emotions, such as indignation, exasperation, etc. In order to analyze the prosody of these questions, we conducted a production experiment comparing the reason and the manner reading of comment-questions. Results confirmed that prosodic cues allow distinguishing the two interpretations. In utterances with reason reading, the expression of questioning force is important, though accompanied by expressions of expectation disconfirmation and surprise.